Just over two years ago we rescued a 15-year-old girl from a brothel on the side of the BR-116 near Medina and took her back to live in Belo Horizonte.
The girl – known to readers of Highway to Hell as Mariana – is now a changed young woman, living a different, dignified life. Now aged 17, she is studying and working as a waitress.
However, there was always something which bothered me. The day we took Mariana away, we knew there was another young girl inside that brothel.
We saw her standing at the bar entrance, silhouetted against the light, holding a baby in her arms. We heard that she was just 13, and that the baby was her one-year-old son.
What had happened to that girl? Why did we take away Mariana and not her? Wasn’t she just as deserving of a new start, far from the BR-116?
Meninadança’s Pink House in Medina opened its doors nine months later.
At first we had a rowdy, sometimes aggressive, group of girls. One of the most difficult was called Miriam. She was a drug user and, aged just 14, experienced in prostitution – so much that she was starting to act as a pimp for other, younger girls.
At the beginning Miriam came sporadically to the Pink House, and when she did her behaviour was challenging. Once, we discovered she’d ‘sold’ one of our girls to a man, who was waiting outside the Pink House at leaving time to ‘collect’ her. To show her how serious we took this, we banned Miriam from the Pink House for a month.
Miriam swore and shouted as she left, and we didn’t think we’d see her again. But being excluded from the Pink House became a turning point in her life. When her month was up, she came back, and began to come every day. Little by little, we saw in her an increasing desire to change.
Since then, we have been amazed at the transformation in Miriam’s life. Last month she bravely started back at school. A few weeks ago she told me that she had said ‘no’ to a man for the first time. “I’ve decided to take a step forward in my life. I want to live differently from now on,” she said.
It was during that same conversation that Miriam told me: “I remember when you took Mariana away from the brothel on the BR-116. I saw you come for her. I was there too.”
Miriam was the other girl at the brothel. It was an emotional moment, knowing that while I’d been wondering who that girl was and where she’d ended up, we had actually been rescuing her, too.
Our instinct is to take every girl, in Medina and other towns,far away from the dangers of violence and sexual exploitation, like we did with Mariana – but we know that’s not possible or practical.
But at the Pink House our girls our learning to rescue themselves, to remove themselves from the dangers around them, by coming to an understanding of who they are and how much they are worth. Sometimes that’s even more lasting and life-changing. It happened with Miriam, and it’s happening with many other girls who are seeing the Pink House as their lifeline too.
Below is a picture of Miriam today – please click to give a donation and help us reach more girls like her who desperately need our help.